The International Tea Party

With the rumblings of the Tea Party continuing to make noise in American politics, it may be time to look outward at the rest of the world. While no mass movement of Tea Party protesters appears to be spontaneously taking to the streets of the Western world, signs do point to a small degree of modelling of the American movement.

There are two big examples of modelling. First is Britain. The Telegraph reports:

Activists are hold a rally at next month’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham at which criticism of Coalition policies will be aired.

A British division, launched last year by The Freedom Association, has held events including a “Boston tea party” in Boston, Lincs.

It has joined forces with the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group, which is being advised by Freedom Works, a large Washington-based political group that backs Tea Party candidates.

The organisers, who have already attracted thousands of disgruntled British conservatives, are being advised by the US low-tax, libertarian activists…

Raheem Kassam, one of the British tea party organisers, also held talks with US activists at the huge CPAC conference earlier this year…

Simon Richards, director of The Freedom Association, said he was also being assisted by leading activists from Australia and Italy.

Reports of an Australian Tea Party are also starting to emerge.

The Australian T.E.A. Party (an acronym for Taxed Enough Already) will be targeting pre-selections across the country and heavily promotes its links to “our friends” in the United States.

Reluctant spokesman David Goodridge – “just call me the website editor” – says the grassroots movement has no plans to register as a political party, won’t stand candidates and won’t accept politicians as members.

“We’ve been around for a little while but we made a conscious decision not to involve ourselves at the last election – we’re not a political party, we are a political movement, we influence parties that already exist,” he said.

Mr Goodridge says the Australian party has not received US funding – “that would not be appropriate, they don’t want to interfere” – but it is looking to update and adapt US training videos for its own purposes…

Mr Goodridge won’t reveal membership numbers in Australia, saying only that “we have people all over the place” and adding that since the website launched on August 28 he has been in contact with a federal Minister and other MPs.

There are also hints of Tea Party organizations getting off the ground in Holland and Italy.

It is interesting that the Australian and British groups profess to focus on matters of personal freedom and fiscal responsibility. This differs from the US, where social conservatives have made an uneasy truce with the Tea Party.

Nevertheless, one issue that goes unmentioned is immigration. All of the four countries mentioned (Britain, Australia, Holland, and Italy) have had significant tensions involving immigration, illegal or otherwise. Sometimes the line between “Tea Party” and right-wing populism can be blurred.

Take France. Newsweek ran a prominent article recently declaring the rise of the French Tea Party. However, David Boaz of the CATO Institute took the magazine to task.

The article went on to explain that at 82 Le Pen is yielding party leadership [of the National Front] to his daughter, who is “a passionate advocate of its core message: strong French nationalism, relentless Euro-skepticism, and a lot of hard-nosed talk about fighting crime and immigration.” And lest that you think that such culturally conservative and unsavory attitudes simply go hand in hand with a belief in lower taxes and smaller government, the authors point out that

“she’s also a big believer in the state’s ability and obligation to help its people. ‘We feel the state should have the means to intervene,” she says. “We are very attached to public services à la française as a way to limit the inequalities among regions and among the French,’ including ‘access for all to the same level of health care’.”

That combination of nativism and welfare statism seems very different from the mission of the tea party movement. The Tea Party Patriots website, the closest thing to a central focus for tea party activists, lists their values as “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Market.”  In fact, I note that writers Tracy McNicoll, Christopher Dickey, and Barbie Nadeau never use the term “tea party” in the body of the article. So maybe we should only blame Newsweek‘s headline writers and front-page editor.

 Similarly, it is hard to disentangle the Tea Party from immigration concerns in European states. Despite Eric Dondero’s claims, one must wonder if the newly powerful Dutch Freedom Party with its anti-Islamic platform is an accurate reflection of the Tea Party’s goals. Similarly, Italy’s Northern League seems to cast a shadow over any significant movement in favor of personal freedom. Nevertheless, on other issues both groups sound Tea Partyish, whether it is the Northern League’s ‘fiscal federalism’ or the  Freedom Party’s campaign to end smoking bans.

The problem may be that the Tea Party does not have a formal platform. In America there is clearly discord on foreign policy, immigration, and certain other areas over what the Tea Party really means. If the Tea Party has really become an American export, expect its flaws to be transported too.

18 thoughts on “The International Tea Party

  1. Ross Levin

    Hmm, so there is a connection between Tea Partiers and genuine fascists, like the National Front in France!

  2. Daniel Surman

    ” In fact, I note that writers Tracy McNicoll, Christopher Dickey, and Barbie Nadeau never use the term “tea party” in the body of the article. So maybe we should only blame Newsweek‘s headline writers and front-page editor.”

    I used the National Front as an example of how we can be sloppy with use of the term “Tea Party”.

  3. Cody Quirk

    The only European political party to come close to matching any of the tea party movement’s ideology is indeed the Northern League of Italy.

  4. Brian

    The “Lega Nord” is considered by many to be a neo-fascist party. Where do the ideologies of the Tea Parties and the National Front differ most? They seem pretty similar to me. Why do we put up with this? Where are the anti-racist and anti-fascist voices in American political discourse.

  5. Cody Quirk

    Lega Nord isn’t ‘neo-fascist’, for one it doesn’t favor a strong central government.

    The NF differs from the tea party movement because of the fact that the National Front still supports the welfare system and strong government to an extent.

  6. Ross Levin

    Ah, my bad. But I still do think that the Tea Party is dangerously quasi-fascist, just like the National Front.

  7. Toaster802

    The only neo fascists are the aforementioned commenters on this page. So sorry that thinking people find your proto Marxist God-King less than appealing. Americans have a natural distaste for big centralized government tyrannical thugs installed by brain dead idiots. That goes for the likes of bushites and clintonistas also. Totalitarian is as totalitarian does. Euro trash is used to being treated like livestock. ObotOne is finding out the the socialism of the dreams of his fathers fails to go over with an independent people. Hence the vitrol and hate directed to citizens who refuse to surrender our birthright to the 51% who would trade everything for the lazy way out. And by the way, that “majority” claimed as a reason for the attack on our country has vanished. And will continue to vanish as the Tea Party types continue to provide common sense one person at a time, without a defined figurehead. Why? Because we do not need one to win. I will let November due the talking for us…

  8. Starchild

    It’s a good sign that people in other countries are taking up the “TEA Party” (Taxed Enough Already) movement.

    However the article makes clear that the movement is not monolithic, and therefore it’s an open question how libertarian Tea Party activists will be in any particular place or on any particular question.

    Therefore libertarians are best advised to continue promoting libertarianism, which has a more specifically pro-freedom meaning.

  9. '..... just look at the activists ' [Lake]

    Lake and California’s PFP near death and GPCa vets failure and criminal corruption at CALVETS / CDVA and Independence NY Frank MacKay’s payola and Nightmare Nightingale and Loony Grundmann and implosion of national CP movement! What is with dis guy and the facts?

    “financial results for 2009 as reported by the Washington Post showed that advertising revenue for Newsweek was down 37% in 2009 …..

    and the magazine division reported an operating loss for 2009 of $29.3 million compared to a loss of $16 million in 2008.[12]

    During the magazine’s first quarter of 2010, it lost nearly $11 million.[13]

    By May 2010, Newsweek was said to be up for sale ………. [14] to audio pioneer Sidney Harman for $1 on August 2, 2010.[2][15]”

    http://www.news.wikipedia.com

    Oops, AOK, he is occasionally correct ………

  10. '..... just look at the activists ' [Lake]

    United Press International (UPI) is a news agency headquartered in the United States with roots dating back to 1907. Once a mainstay in the news wire service, it began to fail with the rising popularity of television news. This decline accelerated after the sale of UPI by the founding Scripps family culminating in two bankruptcies.

  11. Dennis

    I don’t consider the majority of TEA Parties “libertarian.” They may be quasi-libertarian on issues of taxation, but definitely not in the social realm.

    I went to a tea party protest over a year ago. I found it to be 80% normal people and 20% crazies.

    Today, I feel the Tea Party is dominated by the far right wingers. They are quasi-fascist, as demonstrated by the success LaRouche activists have seen at these events/

  12. Shawn Kearney

    The TEA Party has really become the far-right winged constituency of the dysfunctional mainstream political system. Instead of gaining steam as a real political movement, it was allowed to be swallowed by the Republican Party.

    I agree with some things that this “party” stands for, while others I just cannot get behind.

    Now that there is a real international movement covering the same kinds of issues but with a more liberal twist (perhaps and understatement), the 99% Movement, I hope that Washington politics can keep their hands out of things and allow the people, not corporations, to take control of our global governments.

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